With Yemen Hurtling Toward Chaos, John Kerry Seeks Ceasefire

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Events in Yemen over the past week have drawn America deeper into the country’s two-year conflict than it has ever been in the past. And now, in an attempt to lessen the potential for greater involvement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will work to negotiate a 72-hour ceasefire between the warring parties, in order to “create some kind of climate where a political dialogue or a dialogue can begin again,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said on Friday.

“We need to de-escalate obviously given the events of the past week and that is where the priority is right now,” Toner said.

Since last Saturday, the conflict has been a ping-pong match of missile strikes and diplomatic posturing. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia, the foremost backer of the Yemen government, bombed a funeral service, killing over 140 people. The U.S., which supports the Saudis in the conflict, responded by announcing a review in its commitment to Saudi Arabia’s goals regarding Yemen. Then, Houthi rebels, one of the main groups opposing the Yemen government, fired missiles at U.S. ships, failing to hit any targets. In retaliation, the U.S. launched strikes toward Houthi-held territory in the western tip of the country, destroying three radar installations that helped the rebels coordinate strikes of their own. 

Yemen, like the reality in nearby Syria, is a tangled web of alliances, proxy fighting forces, and lone wolf jihadist groups, all threatening to tear the Gulf nation apart. Two years ago, groups loyal to a former president backed the Houthi tribe and sacked the capital city of Saana, forcing the government to flee. Iran, a sworn enemy to Saudi Arabia, backs those groups, while Saudi Arabia, bolstered by the U.S., backs the exiled government forces. Amid these actors are Islamic State cells and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Kerry has spoken with a host of Saudi, Emirate, and other Gulf nations’ diplomats and top government officials to coordinate and discuss a possible cessation of hostilities. He also spoke with Boris Johnson, the U.K. Foreign Minister. Kerry is no stranger to ceasefires. He helped broker one with Russia over Syria a few weeks ago, which barely lasted a week before the country devolved into some of the worst violence in its nearly six-year civil war. We’ll have to see if any progress can be made in Yemen.

Alec Siegel
Alec Siegel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. When he’s not working at Law Street he’s either cooking a mediocre tofu dish or enjoying a run in the woods. His passions include: gooey chocolate chips, black coffee, mountains, the Animal Kingdom in general, and John Lennon. Baklava is his achilles heel. Contact Alec at



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